As increasing numbers of federal district court judges fall all over themselves to be seen on "the right side of history" in the same-sex marriage (SSM) debate, advocates of SSM find themselves captive to obligatory optimism. It’s inevitable, say advocates. Resistance is futile.
For the rest of us, who still understand democratic processes, the debate is hardly over.
Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes should defend Utah’s marriage law for the same reason that SSM advocates seek victory: A deeply held belief in a just cause. What real American ever retreats from a just cause?
Disagreement is the engine of democratic processes. Imagine if pro-life supporters gave up in 1973. Because they didn’t, 40 years later, we are one Supreme Court justice away from reversing history. The same principle is true for the SSM debate.
The state of Utah needs to press forward in defending its marriage law because it’s in its interest to do so. Marriage and family are not just preferences in the context of the state interest. They are the very foundation of American freedom — if American freedom rests on the common good and the general welfare of men, women and children.
If American freedom isn’t about ordered liberty, limited government and human happiness, then marriage and family are inconsequential, and my libertarian friends would be correct to capitulate or negotiate some sort of cultural surrender.
The state interest in marriage as between a man and a woman is about the common good, or it’s meaningless. The common good requires meaning and purpose that SSM proponents can’t explain outside of their adult-centric selfishness. SSM hurts the common good because the necessary redefinition of marriage to achieve SSM — "loving and committed relationships" between any consenting adults — makes marriage meaningless.
If marriage can mean anything, it means nothing. The state interest disappears and personal entitlements against the state take over. In other words, the opposite of the state interest emerges in SSM — selfish individualism replaces the common good.
Herbert and Reyes should defend Utah’s marriage law in the courts, in the legislatures and in popular culture because they love Utah and what it stands for.
Even if Herbert only cared about economic prosperity, he would defend Utah’s marriage law as the source of that prosperity. He won’t find a lasting educated and disciplined workforce outside of a society dominated by intact traditional families.
And if Reyes only worried about rising disorder and crime, he would fight to maintain the proven safest haven for children, women and men. Indeed, if Utahns were concerned about the rise of big government, they would support Utah’s marriage law and the self-government it engenders.
SSM advocates argue that marriage and family affect them the same way it affects everyone else. They argue that their limited findings show that same-sex couples parent as well as, or better than, other couples. But, of course, none of that is true. None of their findings has matured empirically to make such claims. What we do know is that every other familial and parental relationship outside of the intact traditional family suffers a handicap, some more severe than others.
Redefining marriage to mean anything instantly changes a culture of marriage that sustains our collective welfare. It institutionalizes dysfunction.
For anyone who feels moved as a matter of principle to champion single parenthood, fatherless homes, same-sex relationships, cohabitation or divorce, they should reflect on the importance of intact traditional families to society. Intact traditional families are ballast for the common good in troubled times.
The plaintiffs’ cry for Utah to abandon its defense of marriage and family is cultural suicide. And it’s illogical in terms of democratic self-interest — just as illogical as if SSM advocates were called upon to give up their fight or for The Salt Lake Tribune to give up its quest for survival.
Paul Mero is president of Sutherland Institute.
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